On-Air Highlights

Hour of issues

Written by Mary Wilson | Jan 16, 2014 12:01 PM

When we were called in to start “Smart Talk Friday,” Matt Paul and I were wary of what we could bring to the table. Scott LaMar does a great show. I’m a relative newbie here. Matt wasn't looking to get into talk-show hosting. What could we bring to the 9 a.m. hour that listeners would appreciate?

I desperately searched for escape options. Better to play classical music that hour, I thought. Give Cary Burkett a book of poems and have him read to the audience every Friday morning. A one-hour pledge drive once a week, in lieu of seasonal campaigns?

The pitches never made it past my bulletin board. Matt and I got to work making the best hour of radio we could. Our mandate included a focus on state policy and politics, a “zoom out” every once in a while with the help of regional scholars and national observers such as political junkie Ken Rudin, and time at the end to celebrate the approaching weekend with something lighter.


We've been able to surround issues in a way that’s often a luxury for radio reporters. We have time to explore polemics usually restricted to sound bites. But we hope to pack the show with insight, as well as information. The beginning of the show is just Matt and me, going over the week that was in the state Capitol. What happened, and what do you think it means? The emphasis here is less on the catatonia- inducing policy details, and more on the bottom line for listeners and policymakers.

With just a few shows under our belt, we've delved into health and law-enforcement policies, the fallout of the federal government shutdown, and Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election. Matt ran with marathoners, and I had a top state Senate staffer waxing legislative about board games.

At the end of the day, the show is simple. As NPR host Audie Cornish says: You tell a story. We listen. We tell everyone else.

As soon as the first “Smart Talk Friday” aired, I took down the bulletin board of desperation. We’re having too much fun finding our next show.

Smart Talk Friday is a fast-paced program featuring thoughtful and engaging conversations about the politics, policy and people who are shaping Pennsylvania’s future. Host Matt Paul and witf Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson invite your multimedia interaction before, during and after the program. 

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